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Enthusiasm Strong . . . Media Doomsaying Doesn’t Perturb Annual GOP Meeting

January 25, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By DEXTER DUGGAN

PHOENIX — The dominant media’s growing drumbeat that Republicans are headed for electoral disaster this November didn’t perturb the annual business meeting of GOP precinct committeemen for Arizona’s most populous county, Maricopa, whose county seat is Phoenix.
Despite predictions of doom by the same media that confidently said Hillary Clinton would thrash Donald Trump for the presidency in 2016, a veteran GOP local strategist told The Wanderer, “It is an unusually large number of tables and candidates” on sidewalks outside the meeting hall, where more than 800 committeemen carrying more than 600 proxies gathered.
As committeemen listened to talks and voted on amendments, resolutions, and selection of at-large members on January 13, backers of candidates for various political offices staffed tables with literature and petition sheets outdoors along two sides of the hall, while food trucks nearby prepared to offer a sunny alfresco lunch including barbecue, hamburgers, and Mexican fare.
Although Sen. John McCain’s machine in recent years successfully has strengthened his hold over some Arizona GOP operations, it was obvious strong resistance to his establishment remains among the grassroots.
Joe Neglia, a candidate for one of the county party’s five member-at-large positions, appealed to the audience for votes by noting “a topic that’s really important” to him, the claim that “we need to be unified going into 2018.”
However, Neglia asked, was it unity when Arizona’s Sen. Jeff Flake recently wrote a campaign donation to Alabama’s Democratic Party candidate for the U.S. Senate? Was it unity when Flake promoted Barack Obama’s choice for the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016? Was it unity when McCain voted to protect Obamacare in 2017?
Audience members gave a loud “No!” after Neglia asked each question.
“I’m discouraged when I see things like that, and I think the general voting public is, too,” Neglia said, adding that when the public sees no strong GOP objections to such happenings, people wonder why they should bother to be Republicans.
Neglia won the post he sought.
Radio talk host James T. Harris at Phoenix-based KFYI (550 AM) closed his January 15 political program by saying, “Arizona is Ground Zero as to what is happening nationally.” It was Harris’ first show in Phoenix after he departed his previous talk program on Tucson radio.
Interest in the committeemen’s meeting may have been heightened by the three-way Arizona Republican Senate primary race to replace Never-Trumper Flake, who declined to face voters in 2018 for a second six-year term.
Earlier the same week of the January 13 gathering, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and southern Arizona Cong. Martha McSally announced their Senate candidacies, joining the competition with physician Kelli Ward.
The New York bureau chief of the large Japanese Mainichi Newspapers group attended the January 13 event to try to assess how the Trump movement is doing.
Sumire Kunieda told The Wanderer she was here because “Arizona importance is getting hot. It could be a bellwether,” like other key states she has visited including Ohio. “I’m trying to find out whether this Trump movement is strong or fading away,” and how people are thinking.
Perhaps the biggest news in Arizona politics shortly before this meeting was Arpaio’s announcement on joining the race.
Standing outside the meeting hall, Arpaio told The Wanderer this was a challenge he thought he had to try. “When you die, you always want to know if you could have done it. . . .
“I’m a big supporter right from the first” for Donald Trump, the 85-year-old Arpaio said. “I want to make a difference, go to Washington” to help Trump.
The former sheriff acknowledged opposition to his candidacy. “I know I’m causing a lot of controversy entering the race. I know a lot of people aren’t happy,” but, he said, they know he’s someone who speaks out.
A conservative operative who asked not to be named because of his political ties told The Wanderer that even many conservatives were upset at Arpaio joining the race because of such factors as his potentially splitting the conservative vote, his age before he has even begun to serve a six-year Senate term, and his limited experience outside the law-enforcement field.
“A lot of people are, ‘We love you, sheriff, but please don’t do this’,” the operative said, adding that Arpaio couldn’t do an extended appearance coping with a number of issues. “He couldn’t do a 90-minute thing. He’s not up to this race.”
Arpaio could even come in third in a three-person GOP primary, the operative said.
Joe Perron, CEO of the East Valley Pro-Life Alliance, in the southeastern portion of metropolitan Phoenix, told The Wanderer he was pleased Arpaio entered the race.
Both Arpaio and primary foe Kelli Ward have openly supported the pro-life cause, Perron said, and it’s “too early” to make a voting choice between them before the late-August primary. “Kelli has been very affirmative,” and Arpaio “was never bashful about being pro-life,” he said.
However, “I have no knowledge” where the third Republican, McSally, stands on pro-life, Perron said.
Perron said the pro-life cause is so basic that if a candidate can’t realize “it’s killing innocent babies in the womb,” his other credentials are dubious. “If you don’t believe killing babies is wrong, how can you believe in anything else?”
Ward’s literature table outdoors at the committeemen’s meeting included handouts promoting the January 20 pro-life march and rally in downtown Phoenix. At the table was her pro-life chairman, Tina Drake, who said a Kelli Ward team was to participate in that pro-life event.
Drake, who wrote for the conservative PolitiChicks blog, told The Wanderer that Ward is “a completely different candidate, and what she says, she believes….I believe that she’s the best candidate for the job.”
Ward herself told The Wanderer that “the opposition for some reason always tries to mislead the voters,” including impermissibly altering her online content, but she always has been pro-life.
She commended Arpaio as “kind of a folk hero fighting against illegal immigration,” but she said she focuses “on the wide array of concerns that face the voters,” including illegal immigration.
When The Wanderer mentioned national radio host Hugh Hewitt repeatedly criticizing Ward but lauding McSally, Ward said it’s unfortunate that some people including Hewitt “are so misinformed.” Ward pointed out that Hewitt promoted McCain and Flake, too.
McSally “voted for (immigration) amnesty at least 12 times,” Ward said, adding, “That’s what pretenders do . . . But the truth will come out, and the truth will prevail.”
Although McSally is tying herself to Trump for her Senate campaign, she hasn’t been the sort of strong supporter that Ward and Arpaio have. McSally, a former Air Force combat pilot, generally is regarded as the establishment candidate, given the absence of Flake.
Even the Phoenix-based Arizona Republic newspaper, which can be regarded as the most powerful media voice for the Arizona establishment, has been describing McSally as the establishment candidate. Will the paper’s candor diminish as the primary approaches and it tries to divert conservative votes to McSally and away from Ward and Arpaio?
The Republic, which ran two separate news-page stories on McSally’s candidacy the day after she announced it on January 12, said that although “McSally forged a centrist reputation in her two terms representing the Tucson area’s competitive 2nd Congressional District, the (announcement) video shows her taking a sharp right turn” to compete against the reputation of “border-security hard-liners” Arpaio and Ward.
This story said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “the epitome of the Republican establishment,” “has called McSally one of his top recruits of the (election) cycle.”
A separate Republic story the same day described McSally as “the favorite of the traditional GOP establishment.”
A McSally supporter from suburban Tempe, Ken Furr, told The Wanderer he was hoping she’d enter the race because of her record “and things she stands for, conservative values I hold dear, and I don’t think the other candidate represents the values that I stand for.”
Wearing the red “Martha’s Wingman” campaign shirt of her supporters, Furr said, “I used to be a Sheriff Joe fan, but I think he fell away from the values. . . . Him jumping in to the race was a mistake.”
Furr said Ward is “too extreme. . . . I don’t like what she’s said about McCain,” such as saying McCain should retire from the Senate after he was diagnosed last July with aggressive brain cancer, and that Ward should get his seat.
Ward had come in second to McCain in the Arizona GOP Senate primary in 2016. After the cancer diagnosis, Ward said she hoped Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey would consider appointing her, should McCain create a vacancy, until an election was held.

A Horrible Stance

A retired lawyer in southern Arizona, Ann Howard, told The Wanderer that McSally’s “stance on border is horrible. First of all, her congressional district has two of the bluest counties in Arizona, and her voting indicates her support for the open-borders crowd. She voted for the National Defense Authorization Act in 2015 to keep illegal immigrants here as one of only 20 Republicans to join the Democrats.”
A campaign card at McSally’s literature table had a photo of her looking tough, with her arms crossed, next to a border fence. Unfortunately, open-borders Senators McCain and Flake have used the same tough-guy border pitch in their campaigns before doing a complete reversal in office.
Standing next to a full-size Trump cutout at one candidate’s table, a 21-year-old woman told The Wanderer why she supports the president.
“Now that he’s actually making positive changes in our country, the media is throwing a fit because he’s proving them wrong,” said Taylor Garten, of Phoenix. “I’m 21 years old and a recent college graduate, and it’s not popular for people my age to like him, so that makes me even more passionate to support him.”

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